As we arrived fairly early at the elegant New Steine Hotel, we are ushered into the hotel’s bar to wait until the performance room is ready and, with the wonderful smells emanating from the adjacent restaurant, I am already wishing that we had arrived somewhat earlier and completed a full evening of dinner and cabaret there.
At the appointed time the assembled audience make their way downstairs to a quaint room with several rows of chairs facing, what has to be, one of Brighton’s campest stages. With a backdrop of pink taffeta and black sequined tulle, I can’t help wondering if the evening could get any camper – and then The Pink Sinatra arrives and the level of camp goes right trough the roof.
Dressed in the most amazing pink suit, he starts the evening off with a fantastic rendition of Feeling Good. The song was originally written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the musical, The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, but it is Nina Simone’s hit version which is the best known. This song choice also indicates from the very start that we are not just here for a parade of Sinatra hits but for a celebration of all the great swing performers from Dean Martin to Michael Buble
The performance is not just about the songs and, after just a couple of numbers, the audience participation starts in earnest. Scott Free, the creator and performer, first introduces himself, before encouraging audience members to join him in a dance, or to allow him to sit in their lap and he even, occasionally, to catch him as he takes a flying leap and comes to rest on an entire row of people!
The packed house warm to his welcoming personality, superb singing voice and his quirky humour very quickly and, almost immediately, can be heard singing and clapping along to hits like Come Fly With Me, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and, showing a deeper and more emotional side to his performance, a simply brilliant version of Sinatra’s Grammy Award winning, A Very Good Year.
Free’s comedy is on the naughty side, but only in a Carry-On style, and the fact that he is openly gay is used as a source of much of the best material in the show. It is very noticeable that one or two of the jokes are greeted with howls from the male couples in the audience and bemused looks from some of the straight couples. The show is, of course, totally inclusive and, whether straight or gay, everyone is encouraged to participate as much as they feel comfortable doing.
Occasionally throughout the evening the music stops and, in these moments, we hear Free’s views on equality, gay marriage, his meeting with Quentin Crisp and homophobia. He reveals himself to be both intelligent and opinionated without being forceful or militant. His views are those of a man who just wants to bring his superb singing voice, and wonderfully fun show, to an audience that accepts him for who he is – and having the entire audience join him for the high-kicking New York, New York finale shows just how well he does that.